Will I run the 2024 Osaka Marathon in 3.5 hours or less?
resolved Feb 25

I took a running test for VO2max (54.7 mL/min/Kg), Lactate Threshold (79.2%), and Running Economy (220 ml/km/h) at a marathon training studio June 2022. Their estimate for how quickly I could run a marathon was 3:34.

I've never run a marathon. The closest I've done was an open Spartan Race Sprint (a 5km race with obstacles) in 2017. At the time, I placed in the top 6% of participants.

I do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) twice a week for 25 minutes at a time. Ten-minute jog warm-up, followed by three 2-minute all-out runs with 3-minute jogs. I go about 4.3 km during that time.

I'll be doing a 16-week training program, adding a weekly long run increasing up to 32 km a few times, as well as replacing one of my HIIT sessions with a steady tempo run.

Factors against:

👶 Never run a marathon before.

👴 Am over 50.

Only running 3 times weekly.

Factors for:

Been doing 5:2 fasting for a decade. I do my tempo and HIIT while fasted.

Regular sauna bather. I've upped my sauna time to four 25-30 minute sessions weekly.

Disciplined and planning for the marathon according to best practices.

Will carb-load appropriately.

Bought Addidas Adizero Adios Pro 3's, the shoe worn by most 2023 Boston Marathon top 20.

Practicing taking 25g carb energy gels every 4 km.

I'm a health researcher, with my own blog: www.unaging.com

I've registered for the Osaka Marathon on February 25. Will I complete the marathon in less than 3.5 hours?

Conditions: This will resolve YES if I run and finish in 3.5 hours net time or less. If I don't run for personal reasons or don't finish in less than 3.5 hours, it resolves NO. If some force majeure cancels or delays the marathon itself -- earthquake, North Korea attack, whatever -- then I'll terminate the bet as unresolved however that works.

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FYI, I wrote about my marathon research and training here: https://www.unaging.com/sub-330-in-my-first-marathon/

I was highly skeptical that such low mileage comparatively would be sufficient but seems like I was wrong. Congratulations!

@diadematus Thanks! I do wonder if I had run more, could I have gotten the 0.5% faster to qualify for the Boston Marathon...

@CrissmanLoomis I have never run a marathon so my priors were heavily influenced by this article (https://www.wired.com/story/marathon-speed-tech-training-outrunning-my-past/) where he says:
"But then I bought a book called Advanced Marathoning and learned the fundamentals of the sport. It really does help to run more than 20 miles multiple times. It really does help to run at least six days a week, and on some of those days to run until you hurt."
I'm still of the mindset that more is better but your ROI for the time is invested seems excellent for a first marathon.

@CrissmanLoomis You may know this, but the Boston Marathon is so popular now that runners need to have run about 5 1/2 minutes faster than the official qualifying time in order to get a number. But there is a charity program that will give numbers to runners who raise a certain amount for the charity (generally around USD $10k).

@mkalbert Yes, I did know, thanks. It would be more for the status of qualifying, compared to plans to run in Boston.

US$10k?! I only needed US$500 to run for Hope charity in Osaka. Being a charity runner was a great deal. Bypassing the lines and VIP treatment was awesome.

@diadematus Less than 2:30?? That Wired article runner is elite.

ROI for the time invested is a primary life goal for me! Taking common wisdom -- "run lots to prepare for a marathon" -- and breaking it down to the next level to compare the value from different components can greatly improve efficiency. I've done this before for "eat plant-based foods" and "get 150 hours of physical exercise" recommendations for longevity.

For a marathon, the core components are long, slow distance runs, fast tempo runs, and speed work. Middle-distance, middle-pace runs seem not to drive performance. This study found that "polarized training" -- slow, long and short, fast runs -- increased VO2max by 12%, but the other strategies did not materially affect it. The FIRST training plan is focused on precisely those runs.

Anywho, yeah, my total running preparation time of under 50 hours is frankly ridiculous. If I had seen someone else placing this wager, I'd probably have bet NO as well. 😁

Congratulations, @CrissmanLoomis . Very impressive!

@mkalbert Thanks. I had my VO2max retested before the race, and it reached 61.5. I was happy about that, but they also said my Lactate Threshold and Running Economy got worse, so my new predicted marathon time was two minutes SLOWER at 3:36. I decided to disbelieve those results.


@NicoDelon Thanks, Nico. I appreciated your comments, and your skepticism helped fuel my performance!

@CrissmanLoomis Really well executed training. And good anecdotal evidence that one doesn’t have to run 80 miles a week to do well at the marathon distance.

PS: don’t tell me you’re not a little tempted to aim for a Boston qualifier now that it’s clearly within reach.

@NicoDelon The key was the research. Finding the FIRST training plan, focusing on the critical training runs, and cutting out the extra enabled me to reduce the running volume. Fasted running and sauna increased my VO2max despite the lower volume. Finding this study showing that carb-loading is the key to avoiding bonking enabled me to continue at a pace of 4:50/km even after 30km.

PS: don’t tell me you’re not a little tempted to aim for a Boston qualifier now that it’s clearly within reach.

Nope! My goal is longevity, and marathons are not so healthy. I got a blood test midway through training, and my liver enzymes, testosterone, and heart stress were the worst they've ever been. It was a great new challenge, and I learned a lot, but I will return to my research for now.

Well I sure lost that bet. Good job.

Congrats! Super impressive


That's me in the dark navy with bright green shoes, with the Wave 3 timer showing 3:26:46.

Thanks to all who traded. 🙇‍♂ I finished with a time under 3:26. Final time will be confirmed once the chip times come through.

Do you mean 2024?

Are you talking about my shoes? That is based on the 2023 Boston Marathon winners. 2024 Boston Marathon has not been run yet.

The Osaka Marathon is Feb. 25, 2024. Just a few days!

@CrissmanLoomis No, I meant the title of the question, "2023 Osaka Marathon"

@Eliza Yes, I meant the 2024 Marathon! Corrected.

I'm so slow. 😅

Great VO2 max for your age. Dr. Peter Attia would be proud. 3.5 hours seems doable for your fitness level but this being your first marathon is a definite factor as well as your relative lack of overall training miles. My gut says no, but I'm going with a small YES for all of the motivated older first time marathoners!

@mkalbert Thanks for the support. I plan to outlive Dr. Attia 😁 https://www.unaging.com/how-to-outlive-peter-attia/

Shorting on general principle but if you pull this off on your first attempt it will be the most impressive accomplishment I've seen on Manifold